Prep time: 20 mins | Cooking time: 7-10 hours
There are few things more delicious than a beautifully smoked brisket, cooked low and slow and packing a punch of hickory smoke flavour. Whilst dry-rubbed smoked brisket is often associated with Texas, evidence suggests that Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants to the United States may have been the first to smoke a brisket in the USA.
During the late 1800s, Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe settled in Texas, bringing with them their cuisine, which included brisket, most commonly eaten at festivals including Chanukah, Pesach and Rosh Hashana. Jews have been eating brisket since at least the 1700s, as it was Kosher (unlike much of the meat that would have been available in Europe at the time), and traditionally a cheaper cut of beef. However, in the shtetls, meat would have been reserved for Shabbat, Yom Tov and special occasions, due to cost. When these immigrants arrived in Texas, they were able to procure beef much more easily and affordably than in their homelands, due to the abundance of cattle in the lonestar state.
By the early 1900s, whilst kosher New York butchers were selling huge volumes of salt beef, smoked brisket was appearing on Jewish deli menus across Texas. The first known mention of smoked brisket in newspaper advertisements appears in 1910, with Watson’s Grocery in El Paso and Naud Burnett grocery store in Greenville selling smoked brisket from their Jewish deli counters, alongside other traditional Ashkenazi fare, such as chopped liver. A 1916 advert for a Texas grocery store owned by Alex and Moise Weil (of French Jewish descent) featured smoked brisket and pastrami.
Black’s BBQ in Lockhart claims to be the the first restaurant outside the Jewish community in Texas to serve smoked brisket exclusively in their barbecue restaurant, sometime in the late 1950s. By the 1960s, most of the barbecue restaurants in Texas began adopting brisket, and today it is one of the most popular dishes enjoyed in the state.
This recipe, which comes courtesy of Rabbi Saul Kelly, is simple but requires patience and a little bit of specialist kit. Sadly, you can’t rush or cheat perfection!
- 1 x 5 kg (11 lb) brisket
- Any brisket rub spice mix (you can make your own by combining brown sugar, salt, chili powder, garlic powder, black pepper, dried mustard, cumin and paprika)
- Good quality charcoal
- Hickory wood chunks
- Kamado/smoker with deflector plate
- Spray Bottle
- Generously season brisket with rub.
- Light charcoal in Kamado / smoker.
- When lit add 6 hickory wood chunks and the deflector plate (indirect heat).
- Place the brisket on the grill and adjust the vents to keep the temperature at approximately 110°C/230°F.
- Smoke for 6-8 hours, spraying water every hour.
- Finish in the oven, covered, on 120°C/250°F for an hour or two, until soft.